Demotivational Poster of the Day

Demotivational Poster of the Day

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Greener Pastures: Beer and Blackhawks in the South Loop

You're not what anyone would ever call a bandwagoneer. But come Saturday, you're probably going to have one thing on your mind:

Egg rolls.

That's good news, because Jimmy Green's, a slick-looking new South Loop sports den, will be serving them, which should give you all the mindspace you need to devote to ice-cold beer, crispy pizza and Duncan Keith's dental troubles, among other important issues of the day.

This is the kind of swanky, high-ceilinged, flat-screen-covered sports bar where you'll find tufted banquettes (but no college sports pennants), and where the polished black marble bar will have to somehow make up for the lack of a Pop-A-Shot.

You and a merry band of (possibly) well-bearded gentlemen will find a big booth in the back and order some mini tacos, saucy wings and Black Angus sliders—the usual stuff champions are made of.

But next week, when you pursue something more genteel than watching a Hawks-Flyers bloodbath, you'll find a place where you can kick back with a stout and a good old-fashioned South Side standby like a meatball sandwich, and maybe the occasional Rock Band Wii competition.

Just remember your mouthguard.

Jimmy Green's, opens this Saturday, 825 S State St (between Eighth and Ninth), 312-386-9000

Monday, May 24, 2010

Legion (2010)

An out-of-the-way diner becomes the unlikely battleground for the survival of the human race. When God loses faith in humankind, he sends his legion of angels to bring on the Apocalypse. Humanity's only hope lies in a group of strangers trapped in a desert diner with the Archangel Michael (Bettany).
I liked it! A Lot! I don't understand the reviews. And I'm a tough critic! Maybe you need to have knowledge of angel lore and of the Archangel, Michael, and the enormous part he has played through out human history. I found the message profound and far more frightening than 2012 or Prophecy - which is, there is a price to pay for the greed, cruelty and hate that is taking over us and killing our planet. Free Will was a gift, it's sad to think that the Creator had such faith in us and WE are letting Him down, because we are standing on the edge on the abyss and the Dark Side does have us by the throat! I also found the setting apropos in its remoteness verses hordes of screaming people and exploding big city skyscrapers. And I found the actors right on! Paul Bettany is such a great actor. His portrayal of Michael is powerful and believable in his promise to protect us, and Kevin Durand's, Gabriel was heartbreaking, as he faithfully follows the orders of the Creator, even if it means destroying his best friend, Michael. I also liked Adrianne Palicki, she was good, but my favorite was, Lucas Black. I love actors that portray it all on their face, their eyes, their emotions. He's all grown up now from "Sling Blade" but still he continues to move you. I just wish we could see more of him in films, what a waste of talent. The down side of this movie for me was the "Night of the living dead" moment, but that was brief, and the guns, man uses guns, Archangels don't. But I think this was because once Michael chose to help man and fell from Grace, he lost his angelic powers. I say RENT IT! You be the judge! It's not to long and moves along at a nice pace, and yes it's scary! And Gabriel's horn is down right creepy as it heralds the end of mankind! Just RENT IT!

"The last time God lost faith in man he sent a flood. This time he sent what you see outside. Are you saying this is the apocalypse I'm saying it's an extermination !" Legion is a sci-fi, religion based, action film. It has some similarities to both Constantine and Gabriel. I'm not saying you have to like those films to enjoy this one (I think this is a bit better than either of those), but what I am saying is that if you don't like the same subject matter (apocalypse, wrath of God, arch angels, etc.) don't bother watching this. "You know this is crazy....I don't believe in God. Well that's just fine Bob, he doesn't believe in you either." It has a very good ensemble cast. Very good special effects and stunts. Very good story, as well as action. Get the picture, I found the film very good. Is it a classic No, but it was enjoyable, and wasn't too preachy in doing it, which is what films of this type generally end up doing.. "Come, ye children, listen to me. I will teach you to fear the Lord." psalm 34:11

****/*****

4/5 Stars

Jisatsu sâkuru (2001) (Aka: Suicide Club)

54 high school girls throw themselves in front of a subway train. This appears to be only the beginning of a string of suicides around the country. Does the new all-girl group Desert have anything to do with it? Detective Kuroda tries to find the answer, which isn't as simple as one could hope.
Yes, this J-Horror is quite shocking, and does push the envelope in some respects, but at the core it's just another film concerned with technology and it's use as a villian/killer/etc. The acting is good enough and the direction is fine, but besides having a rather un-inspired central conceit, the bad guy is too obvious too soon and the characters never really figure it out, the writing has huge gaps regarding characters who are never explained, and the 'climax' song doesn't make any sense and turns out to be more of a throw away than what the heightened tension might make you believe. All in all, this could have been WAY better and had some interesting ideas that should have inspired a better final product.

I consider myself to be open-minded, and I found myself liking this enough at first - the plot is original and interesting to say the least... a movie about a suicide club? It displays the sort of trend following behavior exhibited by adolescents at that age and how susceptible someone can be to following along with the crowd. For that reason, and the themes underlying it, I liked it. On the surface, though, it felt, to me, empty - like there was nothing complex going on, and the story became increasingly more absurd, unbelievable and ridiculous as it progressed (minor spoiler: towards the end, a dance/singing scene with a supposedly gruesome murderer in a bowling alley ensues, and I didn't know whether to laugh for the sheer balls it took to make a scene like that, or the complete ridiculousness). I guess you should see it if you enjoy extremely disturbing, gruesome (for the sake of being gruesome), gory, ridiculous movies. I have to say that I was also disappointed with the ending. Suicide Club has its moments of originality and supposed ingenious, but I wouldn't want to see it again.

**/*****

2/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Card Sharked: You've Just Been Carded

Cheek'd

And in one of life's cruel ironies, all your money, success and machete-juggling skills won't do anything to change that.

So we thought we'd give you a heads-up on how your secret admirers will soon be getting in touch with you: introducing Cheek'd, now coming to a table near you.

Think of these business card-size introduction notes as a non-creepy version of those Craigslist Missed Connections ads. One day, you'll be entertaining clients at NoMI or holding court on the patio at Big Star. An elegant stranger sweeps by, nearly brushing against you while passing. She's gone in a flash. But you look down and, casually left behind on your table, there is what looks like an ordinary business card.
You examine it. There's a preprinted message. Maybe it offers a simple, suggestive "Hi." Maybe it's more direct: "Act natural. We can get awkward later." Or maybe it's downright exclamatory: "Feel free to stalk me."

You're intrigued, sure. But now things move into the please-chase-after-me phase. Instead of a name, you'll find a code and a website. You'll log in and find a brief profile and photo of your admirer, and if you want, you'll send a reply.

And like that, the hunted becomes the hunter...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Death stalks the dreams of several young adults to claim its revenge on the killing of Freddy Kruger. Chased and chastised by this finger-bladed demon, it is the awakening of old memories and the denials of a past of retribution that spurns this hellish vision of a dreamlike state and turns death into a nightmare reality.
Samuel Bayer directs this reinvention of Wes Craven's 1984 slasher classic about Freddy Krueger, a serial killer who crosses the boundary between dreams and the waking world to gut his victims with his razor-sharp blade-fingered glove. As Nancy (Rooney Mara) and her pals fight for their lives, they also uncover clues to a shocking secret from their past. Jackie Earle Haley takes on the iconic role of Freddy.

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984) is a horror classic. Sadly, the remake can not have that said for it. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (2010) is an okay movie. I won't say it is terrible or boring like many reviewers because it is not. However, if you are watching it, chances are you are also comparing it constantly to the original. In these comparisons, this film will always appear inferior. Jackie Earle Haley is a good Freddy Kruger. Sadly, he isn't close to being the iconic Robert Englund. Katie Cassidy's death is nowhere as bloody or violent as her counterpart in the original. There is no epic bloodbath like in the original's murder of Glen (Johnny Depp). There are no scenes that have that lasting appeal that the iconic imagery of Freddy's outstretched arms or licking of Nancy through the phone had in the original. Plus, I found myself looking for a strong adult character like the original had in John Saxon's character. Clancy Brown and Connie Britton were wasted talents in this one. This film was full of missed opportunities for horror greatness.


***/*****

3/5 Stars

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cookie Monsters, Inc.: Chocolate Chip Disco Mayhem in Lincoln Park

Cookie Bar
2475 N Lincoln Ave
(between Altgeld and Montana)
Chicago, IL 60614
773-348-0300Right now, outside your very window, important things are happening.

Commodities are being indexed. Futures are being traded. Empires are being built. Also: cookies are being baked.

Introducing Cookie Bar, a new dessert specialist that is about to start a chocolate-chip-fueled frenzy tomorrow in Lincoln Park.

Started by a pair of Hollywood refugees (a screenwriter and an animator), the place looks like the Brady kitchen, but set in Studio 54: bright orange walls, Lucite fixtures, the occasional disco ball and, in the bathroom, a poster of gloriously 'fro'd Pam Grier with her guns a-blazin' (if you know what we mean). Now, just imagine Alice came home after a night of partying with Mick and Liza with a lot of excess energy (again, if you know what we mean).

The first thing you'll notice is the familiar aroma of warm chocolate wafting out onto the sidewalk. There are seven varieties of the chocolate chip alone—nuts, no nuts, etc.—made with fine Belgian dark chocolate tucked into cookies that are crisp on the outside, but gooey in all the places that really matter.

They'll have 18 varieties available every day, and soon milk shots to go with them (belt back the hard stuff: chocolate). Then head into new and strange territory populated by Orange Blossom and Cardamom and Oatmeal Chile-Mango-Macadamia cookies.

You will not be leaving a trail of crumbs behind.

Cookie Bar, opens tomorrow, 773-348-0300

Transylmania (2009)

Deep in the heart of Transylvania lies Razvan University, where a group of visiting students is about to get the shock of a lifetime. When not being stalked by vampires and succubi, they're evading Razvan's other resident crazies. Seductive teachers, willing students and a hunchback are all included in this year's curriculum. Musetta Vander, Patrick Cavanaugh and Jennifer Lyons star in this bloodcurdling spoof.
This was a comedy I had high hopes for. I love the horror genre so when I did hear about this, I was instantly excited. I hoped for a raunchy, almost 80s-ish comedy about vampires and werewolves. What I ended up with was crap. This is nothing more than modern-day PG-13 bonehead comedy that just happened to have enough boobs to get an R rating. There are no real funny parts, but plenty of slapstick gags and cliche one-liners. There are no memorable characters to give us movie quotes we use in real life, just a bunch of boring kids who cant act all blending together. Basically, imagine one of these recent American Pie sequels with a hunchback, vampire, and mad scientist. Lame. Rent Dracula: Dead & Loving It or A Vampire in Brooklyn instead. Hell, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer was better.


This vampire spoof is a giant heaping pile of lame and often confusing script combined with some really bad acting. A few laughs, a little nudity but mostly a big mess. This movie sucks...and not in a good way.

**/*****

2/5 Stars

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On the Line: Never Wait on Hold Again...

LucyPhoneSometimes, you just want someone to hold you.

And while we're not drawing any conclusions, it's usually right after you've spent a good portion of your day on hold dealing with customer service.

But sometimes you'd settle for someone to hold for you.

Meet LucyPhone, who doesn't mind handling the phone while you wait for a real-live, flesh-and-blood, oxygen-breathing human being to pick up. And apparently her thirst for elevator music is unquenchable.

Here's how it works: before dialing your favorite 1-800- number directly from the phone, you'll swing by Lucy's website. You'll enter the number, or find it on an exhaustive list of customer service numbers. (Basically, a little black book for masochists.)

Seconds later, you'll get a call from Lucy, who has the company on the line. Type in whatever prompts get you to the hold music the fastest, but once it comes to the waiting part, you'll just enter "**" and hang up. You can monitor the situation on your computer screen, or just go about your daily business. As soon as a customer service agent picks up, your phone will ring.

Go ahead, put them on hold.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Rebel military man Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) and his band of rogue soldiers seek refuge from the living dead, only to land squarely in a family feud between the undead-hating O'Flynns and the Muldoons, a cure-seeking clan determined to help their zombie kinfolk. Cult horror master George A. Romero rises again to deliver another delicious zombie fest where the festering question is: Can a caring family coexist with their flesh-eating loved ones?
See this film for two hours of entertainment and fun, but not if you expect to be terrified or have your ideals challenged. It was not new or groundbreaking but you could definitely tell Romero is an old hand. The story was coherent and had a nice pace, the characters were interesting, and the movie was "light" even as it managed to steer clear of schmaltz.


George Romero will always be a favorite of mine - it was his early films, such as the original Dead Trilogy that exposed me to zombies as a kid... while I have a special place in my heart for Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead - I always liked his movies. From Creepshow and Two Evil Eyes, Land of the Dead and even Bruiser, I really enjoyed his style of writing and directing. Knightriders was great as well - but then came Diary of the Dead. I was so disappointed with that film. I almost could not believe it came from George. Diary was just so poorly written, dreary and just lousy. With that in mind, I saw Survival of the Dead not expecting much. Thankfully, it was much better than Diary of the Dead, but still lacking. George's once lustrous characters, films with a deeper meaning and a cast that obviously clicked like old friends has been gone for a while now and Survival was no different. Ever since he moved to Toronto and changed his style of writing and filming - it sucks. Plain and simple. Sorry, George. I love ya, and the George that was will be the one I hold dear to my heart and love of films, but these last few films - you can keep. I hope the old George comes back one day - the George who had such deeply developed characters that I cringed when even the bad guy characters finally got his or her comeuppance via zombie flesh tearing. Its sad to see and its sad to say, but the Golden Age of Romero is long gone.


***/*****


3/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Faked Alaska: A New Look at Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin Look Alike Contest
at The Admiral Theatre
3940 W. Lawrence Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
773-478-8585You’re not really the political type, but you just love watching democracy in action.

Among other things in action.

So we thought we’d give you a courtesy heads-up: Tomorrow evening, that well-established constitutional and political authority, Admiral Theatre, is hosting a Sarah Palin Look Alike Contest, a night of unfettered free expression culminating with the baring of arms, legs and...maybe a Wasilla or two.

Out of sheer coincidence, the night coincides with the big Republican fundraiser in Rosemont, at which the GOP will be shaking their No. 1 moneymaker, who just happens to be the former governor of Alaska.

So while the chances that the real Palin will show up at this exotic dance emporium are slim (we’re not ruling out Levi Johnston, though), you will get a bevy of doppelgangers, offering their skimpiest, sexiest Palin impressions in hopes of taking home top prize. (Rumors that second prize is a political consultant gig at Fox could not be confirmed at press time.)

A panel of three judges (fingers crossed, Blago will accept the offer from the club to be on the panel) will narrow the finalists to three. The audience will then pick the ultimate winner via an applause meter.

We hear the GOP's using the same method in 2012.

Daybreakers (2009)

In a world 10 years into the future, vampires make up the vast majority of the population with only 5% of the human race remaining. This presents particular challenges as the vampires' food supply - human blood - is dwindling and rationing is now the norm. There is growing evidence that vampires deprived of an adequate blood supply are themselves evolving into wild, vile creatures that attack anyone and anything in order to survive. Dr. Edward Dalton, a vampire and hematologist who works for a pharmaceutical firm, has been working on finding an artificial blood supply that will meet the vampire society's needs. He is sympathetic to humans and sees his work as a way of alleviating their suffering but his views on finding a solution change considerably when he meets someone who found a way to transform himself from being a vampire to again take human form.
Perhaps one of the most original ideas out there today, it seemed to breath life into an otherwise dead genre, overdone by more popular vampires. It is a refreshing thing to see a movie about a society of vampires, especially one on the brink of extinction. My biggest gripe with this movie is that the story was not as fleshed out as it needed to be; I was left wanting more background on all the characters and a more developed story between Sam Neil's character and the daughter.

As a vampire fan, I'm usually disappointed with the twist writers add to their stories in an attempt to re-invent the wheel. Usually they err on the side of silly, artsy, and/or just plain boring. Thankfully, Daybreakers isn't one of those movies. No, it's not horror. It has some shocks here and there and it's bloody, but that's about all there is in terms of gore. Actually, it's a very good take on the excesses of our culture. Instead of man driving whatever animal du jour into extinction, Daybreakers has vampires driving human's to the brink of extinction with scientist trying to come up with a substitute food source. It's not overdone or heavy handed. Daybreakers is more of a Sci-fi future movie with vampires as the main humanoid, if you will. There are some creative takes on driving and everyday life that I rather enjoyed. I have to say, the movie has one of the best "home invasion" scenes I've ever seen. All in all, it was an entertaining 90 minutes.

****/*****


4/5 Stars

Monday, May 10, 2010

Going Native: Tribal Warrior Boot Camp

Bush Adventures
Il Ngwesi Community
Conservancy, KenyaIt's a jungle out there.

Or at least your boss's dark hints about "survival of the fittest" make it feel that way.
So it's probably time to brush up on your spear-throwing skills.

Welcome to Bush Adventures, a two-week crash course in becoming a Maasai warrior, taking reservations now.

You'll be leaving your clothes, your phone and your attachment to indoor plumbing at the edge of camp, and getting a red tribal robe and a new set of survival skills in exchange. First up: weapons training to fend off the ravenous wildlife—including such essentials as how to plant your feet for a spear toss, and how to fling a two-foot throwing club (the orinka) hard enough to drive back a lion. Also: the proper form for scaring off a baboon with nothing but a fist-size rock. (Unless you'd prefer to try to reason with him.)

Once you've mastered the weaponry, you'll be ready for the next test: setting out with a few fellow tribesmen to apply your newfound expertise in the unprotected wilds. You'll summon fire from a pair of sticks, dig your own well for the night's water supply and set hand-built snares to catch your supper. And after you get back, you'll face the final challenge: a dance party in your honor.

The dress code is strictly enforced.

Defendor (2009)

A crooked cop, a mob boss and the young girl they abuse are the denizens of a city's criminal underworld. It's a world that ordinary Arthur Poppington doesn't understand and doesn't belong in, but is committed to fighting when he changes into a vigilante super-hero of his own making, Defendor. With no power other than courage Defendor takes to the streets to protect the city's innocents.
It is just fun to watch Woody put his heart and soul into playing Defendor. It has some very comical moments along with action and some touching scenes. I don't want to give anything away, but this worth the watch.

"Why do I dress up like a superhero? Because superheroes aren't stupid. They're not afraid, and when I'm Defendor I'm not Arthur anymore. I'm a million times better than Arthur." Defondor is an interesting indie film. Is it a comedy, dark comedy, action movie, or drama Depending on how you choose to watch it, it can be any, or all of them. It really isn't like anything else out there. The only thing that is even close is "Special" with Michael Rapaport, but that is way trippy-er, and doesn't have nearly as much heart as this film. It's still good, just for different reasons, and not as good as this one. Woody Harrelson is great, as is the rest of the cast. They really don't have a bad actor or performance in the whole flick. It is independent, so it doesn't have a Hollywood special effects budget, but as you'll see, that makes it more true to life for this film. It's very good, has a great cast with great performances, a unique good script, and interesting subject matter. It's just plain good.

***/*****

3/5 Stars

The Final (2010)

Dane (Marc Donato), an unpopular high school student, leads a group of outcasts seeking revenge on the popular kids who harassed and humiliated them for years -- and their plan includes gruesome forms of torture learned in history class and horror films. Confining the bullies at the remote house Dane inherited, the outcasts turn the tables and subject their victims to a night of grisly treatment in this gory horror flick.

I hope this wasn't one of the best in the 8 movies to die for in the ADH series. This started out as a revenge film for a bunch of high school kids that always got picked on and slowly moves into the night of the party where they play out their planned revenge on their bullies. Once the violence and torture start you think things are going to really get gruesome but it just never lives up to the hype we hear throughout the first part of the movie. There are a few kills and we do have some torture but it wasn't the kind where some people turn their heads or close their eyes type. Overall this was worth watching but it was missing that certain something that could have put it over the top and made it a classic.

You wouldn't get much from seeing the title in combination with the cover. You would think it's some sort of "The Ring" rip off set in a school. It's actually about abused teens giving their torturers their due. The beginning had some incredibly bad dialogue and set up. The lines are so blunt they should be put on a sandwich board. The characters are so one dimensional in the beginning you want to pray they have all their mouths sewn shut. Apparently, they go to a school where no teacher wants to interfere or stop with these shenanigans.There are plot threads that go nowhere and it's a strange running continuity of never seeing faces any of the faces of their parents and adults. Once the party begins it actually gets exciting. It gets tense and raises some pretty interesting concepts. I turned my opinion with the turn of the character's developments. It's not as gruesome as other current movies, but it gets the job done.

***/*****


3/5 Stars

Iron Man 2 (2010)

With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his side, must forge new alliances -- and confront powerful enemies.
Iron Man 2 was definitely satisfying, coming from someone who had been anticipating it a lot. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark, the billionaire behind Iron Man. Downey is great here, again, bringing back his charm he gave Tony Stark. Just when the world in this movie has had an uninterrupted peace for a little while, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), AKA Whiplash, crashes the party. He destroys some vehicles and gets into a fight with Iron Man right in public, in front of everyone. He gets taken to prison, and thats when Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) recruits him to go against Iron Man. Thats the main plot here, with a couple subplots thrown in, but not too many, unlike Spider-Man 3. The acting from the entire cast is great. Gwyneth Paltrow was actually really good in this one, and Don Cheadle was a damn good replacement for Terrence Howard. Mickey Rourke is a pretty badass villain, though I wish he had just a little more fight scenes in the movie. Sam Rockwell was a great addition to this cast and does a great job with Justin Hammer. Scarlet Johansson sizzles as Black Widow, shes sexy and extremely fun to watch. The special effects are great, just like the first one. Overall, Iron Man 2 was a great comic book adaptation. Its one of the best and most entertaining movies of 2010 so far.

Another fine movie, like the first one, however I do have one fairly big complaint. Iron man fighting Iron man, with all the bad guys in the comic world when will they have Iron man go up against someone other than Iron man. If I have said Iron man too many times you might be getting my point. First Iron man has to battle a great big Iron man, now he has to battle several regular size Iron men, what's next? midget Iron men, then microscopic Iron men. Please enough already choose a real bad guy that isn't Iron man for number 3.

****/*****

4/5 Stars

Friday, May 7, 2010

Papa Cass: Home Cooking, Now Delivered

Johnny Casserole
773-398-2407Your mom has a full agenda this Sunday—after all, she and mimosas have some serious catching up to do.

So when it comes time to remember some of her homespun TLC, you'll just have to outsource.

Get your potholders ready: Johnny Casserole is standing by right now to bring homey, Pyrex-encased comfort straight to your door. And we'd never dream of telling your mom this, but you're trading up.

This casserole-delivery service is run by one Mr. Casserole (note: not his real name), who offers mother-replacing culinary cred that includes stints at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Atwood Café and Speakeasy Supper Club. (When replacing your mother, always check the résumé.)

That means your mac and cheese will come gilded with bacon, crawfish or andouille sausage. And while your mom's shepherd's pie was good, it was never premium-grass-fed-beef-and-cremini-mushroom good.

Monsieur Casserole has 10 baked masterpieces—from lasagna to jambalaya—ready for your next dinner party. You'll order a day in advance, and they'll arrive ready to heat and serve to about eight of your friends. Since your dinner parties have a way of becoming brunch soirees, stock up on cream cheese-laced French toast casseroles, egg stratas and apple-pear cobblers.

We won't tell Mom you're seeing another cobbler.

Follow Friday: A Gory Place

This week on Follow Friday, we discover the blog named: A Gory Place

http://agoryplace.blogspot.com/?zx=5ca1d88609604508

This guy is an independent filmmaker and a lover of all movies. He's from Chicago, so I feel like we're neighbors! He's not an everyday blogger like myself or Canadian Cal, but when he does blog, it's usually great. Check him out if you've got a chance and tell him Fnord sent you his way!

And the Winner Is... Giving Someone Else a Good Name

Heineken Audience AwardYou recognize a job well done.

When a colleague makes a good point in a meeting, you give him your "good idea" face. And when someone makes a mind-blowing motion picture, possibly about a mind-blowing band, you get them a beer. Or a trophy.

Or maybe a beer-sponsored trophy.

Which brings us to the Heineken Audience Award, from the just-wound-down Tribeca Film Festival.

Here's how it works: over the past couple of weeks, influential audience members have been voting for the films that shook them to their very core.

The prize: $25,000 in cash for the director. (Rumors that they could also accept the cash equivalent in Heineken could not be confirmed at press time.)

Which brings us to this year's winner: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, a comprehensive rockumentary about Canada's hardest-rocking power trio. (Also: Canada's only hard-rocking power trio.)

It's the film world equivalent of a key to the city.

The Lovely Bones (2009)

The Lovely Bones is the story of a 14-year-old girl from suburban Pennsylvania who is murdered by her neighbor. She tells the story from Heaven, showing the lives of the people around her and how they have changed all while attempting to get someone to find her lost body.

I'm really torn on this, I feel so many things about this and maybe that's good but overall I'm left wondering what the book was like. First, the acting is all really solid - even Wahlberg who I normally feel is stiff and unconvincing in his roles. Sadly, Weisz (my favorite actress of this era) is left with only a few scenes which she nails solidly, but still her role is thin. More time is spent with Sarandon, but I'd rather have seen that time spent elsewhere. The story is interesting, and I think the book must have been much better because while the visuals are breathtaking, it feels somewhat like watching the movie What Dreams May Come sometimes. You get colors and images but I'd rather them be more connected to memories - and many of them were but you didn't feel that they were. Overall extremely interesting premise however it felt long and sometimes meandering or unfocused. All the acting is solid but the pace of the movie varies so much that you feel the ebb and flow of time too much to make you feel uncomfortable. But truly, Ronan and Tucci put in incredible performances, I'd never seen Tucci so unlikable ever.

I was very dissappointed in the ending of this movie. There just wasn't the "closure" I was looking for. Too many things are left unsaid.

***/*****

3/5 Stars

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Ice Storm: Italian Ice, Chinese-Style

Cloud
9604 W Belmont Ave
(at Broadway)
Chicago, IL 60657
773-857-1255The spring forecast in this town never fails to surprise you. Sunny today. Rain tomorrow. And then, on Thursday... snow.

Delicious, delicious snow.

Introducing Cloud 9, a Lakeview dessert boutique opening this week and trafficking in one thing and one thing only: that sweet, exotic Chinese delicacy known as xue-hua-bing... But if you'd prefer to call it snow ice, we understand.

This will be one of only three spots serving it in the United States—and if you ask the owner, the most authentic. You may have encountered snow ice on a detour down a side street during your last business trip in Taiwan. (Well, among other treats.)

If you've had Italian ice or a snow cone, you're familiar with the concept. (And if not, you should consider doing childhood over.) Snow ice takes that basic formula into creamier, fluffier territory with fresh fruit, and maybe a little sugar, frozen inside. The block is then shaved into long, wide, delicate ribbons. The result: a sticky, ethereal puff of summer relief.

There are just three flavors right now: mango, vanilla or strawberry. You'll add your "drizzle," one of several toppings that cover all the basics: chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, chocolate sprinkles. You'll seek refuge here on a muggy August night—or after a Cubs day game in May, perhaps—and line up in a bright, bouncy, kaleidoscopic space, which looks like a little video game from the 80s.

Your Pac-Man fantasy, finally realized.

The Island: Japan's Best-Kept Secret

Chichi Jima Island
Horizon Hotel
Ogasawara Archipelago,
Japan
04998-2-3350Sometimes you just have to get out of town... and sometimes you have to get out of hemisphere.

Preferably to an island utopia 600 miles from civilization, where you'll share the crystal-clear water with only dolphins, sea turtles and some awe-inspiring 60-year-old shipwrecks.

Welcome to Chichi Jima Island, home to one of the most spectacular and least seen diving sites in the world.

First things first: you'll have to get there. After a warm-up flight to Tokyo, you'll then board the Ogasawara Maru, a once-weekly ferry that's the only way on or off the island... and your home for the next 26 hours. You'll want to book a berth on the boat a couple of months in advance (it'll come with four bunks)—otherwise you'll be sharing the cabin floor with fellow travelers who may have differing notions of personal space.

And finally, you'll get what you came here for—four antique Japanese battleships brought down by torpedoes and dive bombers some 60 years ago and gathering coral in the shallow waters off the coast ever since. You'll want to allot a full three days to see them all, dodging dolphins and sea turtles along the way.

When you've had enough dive time, you can catch the spectacular sunset over freshly caught sashimi-style whitefish (or the local favorite, turtle soup) at Hotel Horizon, the only place on the unspoiled island with a Miami-style deck scene.

Okay, maybe it's a little spoiled.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

A reporter, trying to lose himself in the romance of war after his marriage fails, gets more than he bargains for when he meets a special forces agent who reveals the existence of a secret, psychic military unit whose goal is to end war as we know it. The founder of the unit has gone missing and the trail leads to another psychic soldier who has distorted the mission to serve his own ends.
Actually based on the book that tells the true story of how the Armed Forces started a training program to develop soldiers with psychic/new age abilities such as "remote viewing", stopping an enemies heart, mind control, and other way out powers, as told by Daily Telegram reporter Bob Wilto (Ewan McGregor) who's a spineless reporter who's goes to Iraq to try and become a "War Reporter" to impress his wife who has just left him for his Boss at work. Things get real screwball after he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney) who's a former "Jedi Soldier" who claims to have been part of the Armies Elite pscychic special forces. They journey through Iraq and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, as Cassady tells Wilton his tale. I laughed a few times, and thought Clooney was sad and funny, and Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges are great in their roles. Not an Oscar winner but entertaining.

No, it's not funny and I'm not sure it was meant to be. In fact, I'm not sure what it was meant to be. It isn't awful but it's not really great either. If everybody had been blonde haired and blue eyed I might've thought it was Village of the Damned all grown up. But then, these men aren't "all grown up" either. They're older, but age has brought them no maturity and no apparent wisdom. It's closer to Ferris Bueller's Day Off with a hint of alcohol and drugs and a touch of Buzz Lightyear thrown in for good measure since you're never sure the main characters can really "fly". Great cinema it ain't so don't expect that and you won't be disappointed.

***/*****

3/5 Stars

'Wich Hunt: A New French-Vietnamese Era in Uptown

Ba Le
5014 N Broadway
(at Argyle)
Chicago, IL 60640
773-561-4424 A great work of art stands the test of time, no matter what. But even a masterpiece deserves a suitable frame. Something gilded. Ornate. Special.

And when that masterpiece is your lunch...

Welcome to the all-new Ba Le, the reincarnation of the sturdy sandwich institution, now ready to satisfy your French-Vietnamese cravings in a shiny building in Uptown.

Since we know you're a connoisseur of fine sandwiches, we assume you have already experienced the artistry that goes into their banh mi, the classic Vietnamese sandwich. Those crusty, baked-from-scratch baguettes. The house-ground pâté. The tangy pickles. The glory of pork meatballs, barbecue pork, ham and other porcine splendors made in Ba Le's own North Side kitchens.

But now that it has left the low-slung building that's been its home for the past 20 years, the setting is less quirky coffee shop, and more big-city industrial mod. (And they only moved next door.)

The basic premise has stayed the same. You'll still line up at the counter for your Vietnamese pork and honey sausage sandwich, but you may find yourself actually sticking around to eat thanks to the space-age seating and alluring photomurals of women who seem enchanted by long baguettes.

Dr. Freud, your sandwich is ready.